Wednesday, May 25, 2011


I know that many right now are suffering from having massive tornadoes literally tear their lives apart. I can’t fathom what it would be like to have a 15-minute warning to get all of your cherished possessions out of your house and be somewhere safe. We have witnessed a continued slew of natural disasters that have claimed the lives of thousands. In the midst of all of this mayhem there was a Radio Preacher who claimed that Christ was returning last Saturday. He and some of his followers spent 100’s of thousands of dollars on billboard and advertising. The hype unfortunately drew attention to the ultimate reality that Christ didn’t return and most in the media consider Mr. Camping a total space cadet.

Life does have its moments where you want to hide or pretend that you don’t exist. I have had a few major events the last couple of months that had their tornado side to them. Like having all of the paint of for one of our houses stolen the morning of the event. Doing a big event in a park only to be told by one of the HOA board members that they don’t want us to do this any more. This created some inner turmoil for me that Saturday even though we painted 5 houses, had 100 volunteers and had over 200 kids and adults enjoy a great BBQ in the park with a waterslide that entertained the youth for the day.

This last Saturday I partnered with my local Starbucks to host a large community event in the parking lot close to the store. We had spent the last 2 month organizing, inviting local businesses and non-profits to come out. We had a great turnout with local businesses including a great show from the Phoenix PD. The Police were amazing in showing up in great numbers and having a very positive presence. There was a local non-profit that uses horses as a means to help youth and adults with handicaps enjoy life. In the midst of all of the fun I had another one of those moments where I was in the center of another tornado. This time it was partial my fault for inviting a small local business, music store, whose owner had under investigation for an incident involving other fellow Phoenix Police.

I could tell by the look on the face of my Starbucks manager that I had created a bad situation with inviting my guitar friend to be there so we could use his PA system. I was ready for a lecture from the Lady Police Sargent who had helped with the event in a big way. I was told that I had compromised an ongoing investigation by having my guitar friend be at the event. I attempted to get both parties involved to compromise and not cause a scene. Unfortunately there were some egos on the line and I could tell that tempers flared as we discussed the situation. I realized that I had attempted to persuade two parties that weren’t open to negotiations to resolve the tension.

I know the feel of watching great things happening only to see a black cloud create some unfortunate bad vibes for some. Much like I had a couple of my teens make a scene at the Starbucks, which had graciously given us free drinks for the morning while we were helping setup the event. Again, you can attempt to strong arm a person to do what you think is right only to get their reaction which might be to get the h____ away from me. So I got the same attitude from my guitar friend, a police officer and now my teen. I know that in the end I asked a couple of the youth to apologize and thank the Starbucks for their generosity.

I don’t like the queasy feeling in your stomach when it comes to circumstances around me that I don’t totally control. As we wrapped up a big Saturday event for our neighborhood it was a great day. We had made some incredible contacts and were thankful for being able to dream something and actually see it come into existence. I am starting to realize that will always be tension between some people, plans that are well thought out might not really be perfect and people and teens do and say crazy things that can hurt others.

What stood out for the day was that an older lady, who I had talked to a little, took the bus for an hour to come out and help that Saturday. She truly blessed my day and I need to tell her that.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Simple Life?

I just recently finished visiting with Stormwind a great local company that does video work both for classroom and for advertising and promoting. The owners are a great couple that have been involved with New City - Barrio over the last two years. They had just recently sent a video team to both a painting blitz and also our tutoring program. Now after a little time for their editor, Matt, to begin the process of viewing selecting clips we were ask to visit the studio.

We purposely asked two in our group who have an interest in doing video work and editing to be involved from the beginning. The night before I had just gotten Darious, one of our interested future video guys, to start learning Final Cut. I had a couple of questions for him about doing video using I-Movie and was humbled to see that even though I do know a little bit that it a different world when you actually go for the mainline tools of the industry. So Darious spent hours trying to figure out the basics of Final Cut. I actually went to bed and my wife took Darious home around midnight. I reminded him that we would be going to Stormwind the next morning before his late start for school.

I had also texted Mark, a young dad with four, that he needed to be up and ready by 8AM. He isn't always the most punctual, especially in the morning. So after getting a refill at Starbucks I picked up Darious and retested Mark to make sure that he was ready to rock and roll. We drove for about 30 minutes and ended up in a nice business park in Scottsdale. As we pulled in the owner, Tom also pulled up in a rather nice Audi which Darious obviously lusted after and made a few comments when we were leaving. I could tell as we entered into their office and saw firsthand the decor and arrangement that it took both of the guys back a little. This is a real company with fancy office and all of the expensive equipment to do real work. We are just a bunch of beginners that are wanting to learn a little or a lot. I know that Mark was dreaming that he would be an editor like tomorrow making big bucks. The reality as we listened to Matt who was the main guy is that it is a slow process of learning, doing, learning doing and connecting.

He quickly showed us a couple of different programs and formats for doing our work. It was great to see some of the clips and get a sense for how he was able to go through 2 hours of clips in 4 hours and cull out what wasn't good. I asked him to talk about his background and story. How did he get interested in doing video? What type of school did he have behind him and what was his story about getting into the business. The main message is that there wasn't any short cut and that taking classes, getting a degree, doing an internship was the only way to go.

I asked my questions about what is the best program and computer setup. He came back with my answer of mac and mac software. So now Apple was coming out with a great compromise between high end and low end video editing software that was no cost effective. So once June rolls around I'll invest in Final Cut 10 and learn from the ground floor up with Darious as my teacher. Obviously I won't let him know that but it will be fun.

I know that we live in a world that in one sense is very complicated and not easy to figure out. Yet, I also know that the basics of what makes life happen are pretty much the same. My hope is to find a balance between being someone who loves high tech stuff but also loves real life such as walking on the canal with the dogs or watching Anne of Green Gables.

The stark reality is that life does have its moments where everything is just amazing and then I am reminded that I live around many who go to bed at night hungry and not knowing if their mom will get food stamps and still be in their apartment in the next month. I am so fortunate to be able to relate back to different types of people who live in totally different contexts which allows me to see that all life has value and meaning.

Thursday, May 12, 2011


As I was somewhat apprehensive to go up to a Fire Station and ask them to come to our big event on May 21. Yet, I park my truck and walk over to the open door with the Fire Truck in full view. A fireman was just walking around the corner so I introduce myself and give him the flyer. He gives me a great look and seems open and interested in helping out. He finds another friend who will be on duty that day. We talk and I give him my card and flyer. I will follow up next week to make sure his captain is there.

As we finishing a cycle of tutoring it struck me how God has brought some incredible helpers both young and old. As I ask Lou, one of my 'grandpa' types, about the summer time he is open and excited to work with little kids. I know that Roger and Art also would jump on board. I am grateful that Brandon and Jasmine are great tutors and really love by the kids. They are graduating from ASU but have committed to help out in the summer time. I know that my Starbucks addiction can be criticized by many but my choice to hang out and be around the crowds has helped me. Joseph, the manager of my 'bucks' has become a great friend. We are doing this community event together that is slowly coming together. It will be interesting to see how many come that day and how many of my group come and help.

As I look at the little people God has used to teach me so much they become big in my eyes because they continue love, reach back and be available all of the time. It isn't easy to go back to some of those that are on the sidelines and continue to dialogue to pull them back into service. As one of our more wild child type sneaks over on occasion I have to remind her and her sister that their grandpa is at war with us. He is jealous of the fact that his grandkids would rather be with me than him. He has made some crazy accusations that are totally unfounded and just 'stupid' yet I tell the girls go back and talk to your mom - please.

As I drive for an hour to pick up paint I am reminded how powerful relationships happen to be as with Gary and Brad. They have made our painting projects a true success. It all came back to making a mess and allowing someone else to help clean up! Yeah, it isn't easy to admit that I need help but I do.

Pushed Out of the Nest

I truly have an incredible wife, partner, best friend and fellow Christ follower. My Anne is amazing when it comes to rising to the occasion. She is able to balance an amazing load and not show any signs of wear and tear. I knew that she had a work related meeting on Wednesday. I also knew that her direct supervisor was getting pressure to outsource all of the transcription work. So I wasn't surprised when I get a text that she had been laid off, fired, down sized or given the shaft. What amazed me was that she wasn't screaming, mad or ready to go after Kendra and some of the Doctors who are totally into themselves and don't show any real concern for their employees.

We will be ok and Anne will end up doing something totally different that will help her ultimately. The next few months will be the same with her doing work for her fellow transcriptionist who is doing overflow work. The difficulty for most of these ladies is that they are the only income in their homes and medical insurance becomes so important. The job had its pluses and minuses with having some flex but then the reality that you have to work on weekends or have emergencies that mean you work late some afternoons.

I know personally that sometimes God uses tough circumstances to wake us up to do what he really wants us to do. I will always remember that night when three of my friends in leadership and ministry did it to me. Looking back now I know that they were immature and brash in their demands and sense of God's will. I know that I should have come to the conclusion that we were at a stalemate. God uses different means to push us out of the nest into the action. I am glad to be in the middle of the action today instead of being in a church that has comfort zone and inactivity written all over it. I will be the first to admit that truly living by faith is both exciting and totally scary.

I know that my Anne will still have a servant's heart in her attitude towards any job she gets and hopefully it will be something totally different that will stir her heart to greatness.

Monday, May 9, 2011


I had an e-mail from someone I didn’t know but knew of him. He was asking if anyone in greater Phoenix would host a group of 19 students for a Women’s Lacrosse Nationals Tournament. I had a sneaky suspicion that no one would step up. I also know that Anne and I love to have groups in our home to have an opportunity to show in a tangible fashion Christ’s love. So when I finally connected with one of the team captains she was thrilled to hear that someone would actually step up to help. After listening to the simple reality check that the team didn’t have much funding and that to stay at a high end resort close to the tournament would cost a couple of thousand not including food.

My son had just moved out so our house had a little more space so housing 19 wasn’t going to be too difficult. I know that the coach was a little Leary of initially saying yes until she knew that our house was large enough and that we actually had the transportation to make it happen. This was obviously a big tournament for all of the top College Women’s Lacrosse Teams in the US. The fact that University of Washington made it to the finals was amazing, regardless of whether they would win any games. I was also thrilled to hear that my College, Cal – Poly had also made it to the finals.

So as the night arrived for them to land in Phoenix I asked a few to help with picking them up at the airport. We had the van, truck and little yellow car. It was relatively easy to get them and it wasn’t too long before we arrived at my house with the little dogs welcoming them by barking. They were obviously ‘high’ from flying out and we offered some snacks and drinks and they slowly got settled and we were able to do a few introductions.

The next morning we fixed them a gourmet breakfast, which prepared them for their long day ahead. We got everyone ready and filled up the van and truck. The Scottsdale Sports Complex is the perfect field I am sure for any sport like Lacrosse or Soccer. We found the sports complex after about a 40-minute drive. The coach found out how to register and then discover they were supposed to be at the fancy Marriott’s around the corner for all of the awards and special announcements. It was also clear that everyone else was dressed for success in beautiful dresses and they came in their shorts.

As the four days whizzed by it was great to get to know these college gals between doing breakfast and dinners together. I was able to watch two games and see that Lacrosse wasn’t too easy to play and that regardless of how it looked it was a contact sport that produced large bruises on most of the girls. Most of the girls had real homework, papers and even tests they had to do while away.

We had some interesting conversations as I ‘played’ with a few of them and asked about whether they were attached and had boy friends. We talked about commitment and the ingredients for a good relationship. Anne, as usual, got involved and did her discussion on sex and how being intimate without a real friendship was pointless and more so going to be harmful. I was pleasantly surprised at their level of maturity when it came to this topic. They are some impressive young ladies who are driven to pursue excellence. Most of them were some type of science major that required taking difficult classes, which I have, a vague memory in my college days.

As I got to know the coach, Vinca, who herself was an amazing lady. She worked full time and coached both a High School and this College Lacrosse Teams. I asked her impression of her team. She was quick to say that they were too nice, too friendly and more like ‘pussy cats’ and that this would be their downfall. She described most teams that make to the finals as being mean and aggressive. As I watched a couple of games I could see what she was talking about.

We discussed about doing at least one fun activity while they were in Arizona. I decided to push going to Sedona and Slide Rock. After a little discussion and showing pictures and a video of our visits it wasn’t too difficult to persuade them that it was worth doing. So after their game on Friday we were able to leave around 1:30 to see the red rock and enjoy the cold water. We took both the truck and van because of the ‘stuff’ we needed to bring. It was a rather easy ride going there without too much traffic. We did make a stop for Starbucks and Taco Bell. Otherwise the girls all started to look amazed as we started to see the breath taking red rock first at a distance and then close up. Driving through Sedona is always enjoyable and tempting with all of the shops.

We drive through Sedona and then another 20 minutes and we are close as we pass Oak Canyon and then the turn off. As we drive through and see an empty parking lot I know this is going to be a refreshing couple of hours. We get our normal spot and unload everything. I push everyone to walk up to the slide and see the jump zone. I quickly get in, knowing that I will be cold and get the group going. It isn’t too much longer and I am jumping off the 10-foot rock. It was so much fun and yes the water was chilly and the wind didn’t help either.

We had a great time watching everyone get their nerve up to jump and land in the frigid waters below. It was fun bugging a younger couple to get their nerve up to jump. I think I must have jumped at least 3 times before they even stood on the ledge. Yes, they finally do it and realize it wasn’t that difficult to do. Everyone gets wet and refreshed in our 2 hours and Slide Rock. We pack up our little spot and head back to the van and truck. We decide to do Mexican as we approach Sedona. There is a familiar place, Oxcaha, which we select and get seated quickly. The view is amazing from our table and the chips and salsa are great.

The drive back is captivating because of one of the team leaders wants to know more about what we do and why. So this begins a couple hour discussion about life that finds her talking about her situation, choices and decisions. I am thrilled that she is very open and venerable about her life choices and how she needs to think more about bigger life issues. It was great having similar conversations with many of the student’s parents who came out for the finals.

The last morning we had to leave too early to get to the complex by 7AM. I could tell that they were all tired but still wanting to play their last game with determination. The sun was out and it was actually warm. The team they were playing was Boston College and was fairly matched with them. The game was never more than a couple point difference from either side. I could tell that they really wanted to win and continued to push themselves in spite of the officials who seemed to call too many times and stop the action instead of just letting it go. The last few minutes saw the other team score two times and end up with a one-point lead. The time was beginning to get down to a minute and then I could tell that BC was going to keep the ball and that U W wasn’t going to get a last minute chance to tie up the game. As the foghorn sounded off we were all hot and tired from yelling our hearts out. The parents were proud of their students who played hard and at least made a record, the first UW team to actually win a game in the finals.

After pictures we all made back to the house where there were a few hours to shower, pack and be ready for the long flight home. Yeah, we were crazy to host 19 in our house but it was a lot of fun between the little dogs barking, the various conversations, tests taken and then great food we shared. I will miss Vinca and her team.